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Spooning Myself

One spoon, two spoons, three spoons, four. Five spoons, six spoons, damn I dropped them on the floor!

One spoon, two spoons, three spoons, four.
Five spoons, six spoons, damn I dropped them on the floor!

I was contemplating whether to do a blog explaining the Spoon Theory and how it relates to my energy levels, finding a life balance and such-like when I found this graphic on my Facebook news feed, from the wonderful ‘Spoon Shortage’.

Well, this was the shortest blog post ever…  Kidding!  Whilst that graphic explains one single day, every person who deals with a chronic long-term condition which causes pain/mobility problems and/or other limiting condition will know that each individual has a different experience (even with the same diagnosis) and that this graphic is great as a one-off, but really, it’s FAR too simple.  Let me explain, using 12 spoons as a jumping off point as above.

Above would describe a normal work day for me, in which all spoons are used but none are left over and none have been borrowed from the day before or saved up to be used at a later date.  So, that day is over.  What about tomorrow?

Same again?  It should be because I am working full-time Monday to Friday (yes, people with chronic pain conditions/disabilities can work full-time; it’s not one-size-fits-all like the media, government and anyone with no experience seems to think) so you’d think so, but no.

Every day is different.  It starts from going to sleep.  So, was it a good night’s sleep, or did I struggle to nod off?  Remember, the starting point is 12 spoons, so:

Struggle – 2 spoons used before waking – leaves 10.

Easy sleep – 1 spoon used before waking – leaves 11.

Okay, then to getting ready and out of the door to work – how is my mobility?  Do I need my walking stick?  I don’t eat till I get to work, but my medications at this point don’t require a full stomach so I’m okay there.  Am I at a 2 out of 10 pain level (that’s normal, every day for me – I am always in pain but you get used to it) or is it higher – 5 or 6?  If it’s 7 or above it’s a sick day from work so we can discount that.

Okay (I’m going to have to start using bullet points):

  • Struggle to sleep but not in too much pain means 2 spoons used on the journey to work. That leaves 8 spoons left.
  • Struggle and in pain means 3 spoons used on the journey therefore 7 spoons are left.
  • Easy sleep but in pain when waking means so 8 spoons left.
  • Easy sleep and not too much pain when waking means 9 spoons are left.

I almost always struggle to stay asleep so have started to discount that from my spoon counting.  This may be an error.

Sometimes I struggle to sleep AND wake throughout the night – that starts me off at a deficit of 4 spoons so I’m at 8 spoons by the time I wake.  If I’m in pain of level 4 or more, game over, work is not happening.  Luckily this is still very rare.

You will see from the bullet points I then have to assess how I am physically and predict from a basis of knowledge of my body how many spoons are left and how many I will potentially use throughout the day.

I’m not even at mid-morning yet.

My work is sedentary, desk-based but responsible and I have a very supportive firm.  I am able to work the odd hour of overtime if needed, and they are always very solicitous about my welfare.  I am very fortunate in this; I don’t actually know of any other person dealing with life-limiting long-term chronic conditions who has this level of support at work.  However, every single day takes 3 spoons out of me if I am not in pain or at a level 2.  The pain may increase throughout the day which ups the spoon removal to 4 or even 5.

This means I am left with anything from:

  • Struggle to sleep and stay asleep/wake in pain at 6 spoons/pain increases to 5 spoons = 14 spoons and I’m having to borrow spoons from tomorrow to get home, or take four painkillers which each give a spoon back, getting me back to 10 spoons. 2 left for the rest of the day.
  • Easy sleep/no pain on waking/no pain increase throughout the day = 6 spoons left for the rest of the day. This is GOOD but is also very rare.  Generally I have trouble staying asleep.
  • Most commonly I have an easy sleep but struggle to stay asleep and wake throughout the night. I wake up with the alarm clock not in too much pain, with the average of 3 spoons used.  That means by the time I leave work I have used another three spoons, so I am left with 6 spoons to go home with.  This is good.  However, the lack of sleep has left me teetering on the edge of losing another spoon, so I need to be wary and try to keep one back, just in case.
This bag had NO walking stick and was neither pregnant nor old and should not have taken up the seat! How RUDE!

This bag had NO walking stick and was neither pregnant nor old and should not have taken up the seat! How RUDE!

Okay, so the journey home will take off another spoon, maybe two, depending on whether I have to stand on the commute or someone notices my walking stick and lets me sit.  This does not always happen.  This photo shows what is a fairly common sight on my commute.

Bags CLEARLY need the seat more than a disabled person/old person/anyone with a pulse.

So, by the time I am home from work I am anywhere between borrowing spoons from tomorrow to having 5 left for the rest of the day.

The further it gets through the working week, the more tired I get which has a knock-on effect on my spoon level.  Friday will typically be 2 spoons less than Monday.  I very rarely make plans on a Friday, as it is most likely I will have to cancel them.

I have to think ahead when planning – do I have anything arranged for the weekend?  Better not do anything in the week then, as that will mean borrowing spoons so I won’t have any available for the weekend.  If I do have an arrangement, better not make plans for either weekend surrounding it, as that will cause problems which may mean I cannot work during the week.  Where exactly am I with regard to spoons spent/left?  Quickly assessing in my head; can I take some painkillers and borrow the spoons they give me?  Will the side effects of those painkillers be too much; when did I last take the pills so I can assess the possible impact?  All these go through my head when making plans.

Sometimes, of course, I throw caution to the wind and just go out and have fun, regardless of the consequences.  Those consequences still come, and I may have to borrow extensively on spoons and hope I held over some to pass onto the future.  If not, oh well, many painkillers and a weekend in bed should help level me out again.

It’s a constantly changing balancing act.  Spoon theory is complicated, and different for every person who lives with a chronic condition (in my case, three, each with different, interlinked impacts on my life planning).

I was considering drawing a graph to try and explain it.  Having re-read this blog, I don’t think I could.  Just imagine a bowl of spaghetti with numbers randomly attached to it.  That’s close enough, I reckon.

Please share this blog if you have chronic conditions and/or know someone living with chronic pain etc.  It may help you or those around you understand why sometime a last minute cancellation can’t be helped, and why all the planning in the world is useless if you simply ran out of spoons.

Thank you.

Oh My Deities, I’m In Labour!

Well, that will confuse anyone looking for a new parent blog.  I remain and shall always be a child-free zone.  However, I appear to have registered to vote in the Labour party leadership election which has surprised me as much as anyone else, not least because of the passion I feel for the party if my chosen leader is elected.  Even more surprising to me because I am a Green Party person who helped campaign for them in the last general election.

The next Labour Party leader, I hope.

The next Labour Party leader, I hope.

So who is this person for whom I speak so vociferously and about whom I blog?  Why, Jeremy Corbyn of course!

He is a Socialist and staunch advocate of the values for which the Labour Party was originally formed.  New Labour under and post-Blair has destroyed the Party from the inside and continues to do so, most clearly evidenced throughout the leadership campaigns of the three other candidates Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham, the first two of whom actually define themselves as new Labour.  Mr Corbyn is the only person to speak out against the austerity measures, which beggars my belief given the myriad independent economists who have clearly stated how austerity is damaging in the long-term, and given how it is not working and has led to an increase in wealth for the top and a reduction at the bottom (a group which is ever-growing as more people are added to the numbers):

Scary, scary, scary - and getting worse.

Scary, scary, scary – and getting worse.

More statistics, if you want to be even more depressed by them, are available here: https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/scale-economic-inequality-uk.

As early as 2012, the IMF was stating it may have been wrong about austerity and the damage such measures would cause.

But that’s okay, because the Tories just redefined poverty so it doesn’t exist anymore and they are killing all the disabled and homeless so that’ll keep the statistics down… Ooops, digression.  Apologies.  Back to the topic in hand.

The Labour Party was formed to represent the political views and social needs of the working classes, who have always been and continue to be the vast majority of people in this country.  From the Labour Party’s own website:

The Labour Party was created in 1900: a new party for a new century. Its formation was the result of many years of hard effort by working people, trade unionists and socialists, united by the goal of changing the British Parliament to represent the interests of everybody. Ignored by the Tories and disillusioned with the Liberals, a coalition of different interests came together to push for change at a Conference on Labour Representation in London’s Memorial Hall in February 1900.”

It is worth pointing out this was before all working class men and women as a whole gender group had the right to vote; statistically the working class and women are more likely to vote left-wing as are those who identify as BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic).  It was not until 1924 that the first Labour government was formed.

Over the years, the ideal of aspiration has increasingly led to a deification of capitalism and status-symbol flaunting.  Society has become judged by and judging of what people have instead of what people do.  This is contrary to left-wing, and in particular socialist, politics which values the person over the profit and the purchase.

Unfortunately, the desire to win coupled with the demonisation of the Labour Party by the media (who, let’s not forget, are headed by Capitalists; after all that IS the reason d’etre of the media, to make money) means the general public never received objective electoral information.  The Party subsequently pandered to the media, and the New Labour movement under Blair has slowly been moving the Labour Party to the right so that now calling them Diet Tory (as I do) is no longer a joke but a sad fact of life.  They have themselves turned against the Unions who formed the party and are the backbone of the support and funding they receive; out of the four leadership candidates there is only one who is not continuing this decline.

The Green Party is, at this moment in time, the only true left-leaning party of the people, and it took me a while to get over the feeling I was being unfaithful to them.  I know many people don’t have the opportunity to vote Green, and Labour is the only alternative they have so it is important that Labour is able to represent them.

Green being the only left-leaning party could actually change, in reality.  There is a very real chance, if Jeremy Corbyn is elected Leader of the Labour Party, the party will return to its roots and to its core supporters.  It will become representative of the left of the country, and it will became a real opposition party instead of one of abstentions and pandering to the bankers/corporations.  Anyone under the age of 35 has never had the chance to vote for a pre-New Labour Party; this is the first time these beliefs, ideals, policies and people have had the opportunity to have their voice heard by a party which may actually have a chance at winning the election.

The massive increase in turnout and votes the Green Party received in May 2015 showed clearly that there is an appetite for left-wing ideas and policies.  Under Proportional Representation there would have been a slight left-wing majority in the Houses of Parliament… I digress again.  Sorry.

Jeremy Corbyn is the only anti-austerity candidate.  He is the only one who spoke up for the strikers in the recent Tube Strikes that hit London.  He was one of only 48 Labour MPs who voted against the recent Austerity Bill rather than abstain (how is abstaining opposing?  Should we perhaps send all Labour MPs a dictionary for Christmas?).  There has been a massive increase in registered members of the Labour Party, including me, as a direct result of Mr Corbyn’s standing as a candidate for Leader of the party yet confusingly the Labour Party has stated they don’t think he would be a leader who would win.  I do not understand how increase in support for the Labour Party equates to less votes, but then that is a view being expressed by people who support austerity against the advice of economists so I’m not sure I would trust their maths skills anyway.

If Jeremy Corbyn does not win the leadership battle, and we are left with a continuation of New Labour then I will be holding a funeral and wake for the death of the Labour Party.  It will not only have betrayed its roots and its reason for being, but will have committed suicide on the strength of an insane belief that right wing voters will somehow vote for Labour instead of Tory, UKIP or even Lib Dem (especially now they have a very conservative Christian leader).

Greens could work with Labour (I can but dream), but only if Jeremy Corbyn wins.  Gosh, I hope it happens.  By the way, if anyone is interested, Stella Creasy would be wonderful as Deputy Leader working alongside Jeremy Corbyn. Just sayin’…

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party; I hope!

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, I hope!

C*!T – NSFW (does not contain nuts)

It appears from myriad social media posts appearing in my news feed that one of the most popular signs from the Anti-Austerity Cuts March on Saturday 20th June in central London is this one:

Bet this took a great deal of thought to create.

Bet this took a great deal of thought to create – because sexism is okay if it is in a good cause.

{deep sigh}

Every time I see an insult against the worst of the worst, be it David CaMoron, George Osborne (for whom no word could possibly be a suitably bad descriptor), Ian Dunkedin-Shit, Ziegheil Gove, Jeremy Hunt (not rhyming slang), Maria Miller (or any other Minister for Equality appointed in the previous Cabinet), the terrorist/s of the moment, the entire [insert name of country here] government, or any individual or group who have committed acts of atrocities or slightly pissed someone off, in the vast majority of cases cunt is the word that is chosen to emphasise the anger/distaste/whatever of the object of the insult.  Cunt is plastered across social media or across mass media or in public demonstration as the worst possible descriptor, the most shocking and provocative insult to use.

Whenever I have objected, the most common argument I come across is this one (I am cutting and pasting the exact quote from the latest in a long line of people to argue with me), “so either you are for the censorship of words that are used as swear words or you actually see that no deliberate slur to women’s sexual parts was intended or that it was implied that women are solely to blame for the ideology of the Tories (although some obviously are). If you don’t like the word cunt being used as a swear word then I can understand that you simply don’t like it, but to try to turn it into something other than was intended is disingenuous

{another, deeper sigh}

Cunt is a gendered word*.  Whether the intent behind the use of the word is gendered or not, that is irrelevant.  Once it is used on social media it is out there.  To presume that the intent behind the words is exactly the same as how you, as an individual, perceive it and that everyone perceives it that way is disingenuous at the very least.  I will ignore the fact the cut-and-paste quote totally straw-manned my argument by bringing up censorship and reference to implications regarding female responsibility.  The point made is reductive and ignores the context of the sign and word.  In this case, the argument came from a white middle-aged male, but it not a point exclusively argued by men.  Women can be a part of maintaining patriarchal hegemony too.  It is mostly men who argue it with me though.

If google says it, it must be true!

If google says it, it must be true!

When you ask google for a definition of cunt, this is what you get, in order and without separation because both meanings can and will be applied any time the term is used.

Laurie Penny, a woman I admire, has written about reclaiming the word and using it to empower ourselves but as long as we live in a world where the power lies with patriarchy using the word as the worst insult you can think of on social media (which, don’t forget, crosses international boundaries and has a far bigger impact that you may realise**), where you cannot possibly have full understanding of every single person who will read and use the term, it will continue to perpetuate the idea that the female genitalia is dirty, wrong, to be belittled and through this, female sexuality and body image is disempowered and made dirty.

We live in a society where adverts for sanitary towels and tampons cannot use the colour red to represent menstruation for fucks sake!  Where such products are taxed as ‘luxury items’.  Where the idea of moon cups or recycled period cloths are somehow dirty, disgusting and only for hippies who live on the fringes of society.  Where the mention of periods or female body parts is either instantly sexualised or instantly disgusting.

I do not object to the use of the word ‘cunt’.  I think it is a beautiful word; guttural, easy to spit out with venom or humour, short, to the point and describes the centre of the female (cisgender/post-transition transgender for some) body.  It describes a varied, strong, elastic fount of human birth and growth, not that you’d know it from mainstream raunch and porn culture and the rise in vaginaplasties for cosmetic rather than health reasons; the designer vagina.

See how varied they are in shape simply from the external view – you won’t get taught this in school sex ed (probably, I’m old, it’s been a while):

The Great Wall of Vagina by Jamie McCartney, 2013

The Great Wall of Vagina by Jamie McCartney, 2013

I object to the use of cunt as the most offensive, shocking and vulgar insult that can be thought of, and most definitely object to the fallacious and disingenuous argument that because it wasn’t meant as a gendered insult, it shouldn’t be taken as one.  It’s a gendered word, therefore the insult is inherently gendered whether you meant it that way or not.  It may be losing its strength over time, and many now perceive it on the same level as ‘dick’, ‘arse’ or ‘shit’, but if this is really true, why is it the word that is used the most in insults when the invective is intended to be most forceful?  Why is it not ‘arse’ or ‘shit’ that is chosen instead, neither being gendered?

There is a history to the use of the word that ties into the inherent dominance of masculine culture – to call a man a cunt is to feminise him and denigrate him as a result.  It is the ultimate in patriarchal verbal oppression, both of women as an amorphous whole and the man as an individual.  It says that to be feminine is to be lesser, ineffectual and wrong.

I expect someone to counter with a history of the origin of the word ‘cunt’ at some point, but I am talking about the context in which we are currently living.  Cunt has a fine, rich history in which it has not always been such a gross insult, and there are many different root sources of the word.  However, that is not the case for the use of the word at this current time and in the context I am referring to.

When used in the context of a group of friends who know each other well and know how such a use is intended, I don’t object to the use.  Context is what I am talking about and I do bang on about it quite a lot.  I am talking about social media, or mass protest, or any context in which you cannot know how it will be perceived whatever the intent of the use may be.  I am so tired of arguing this point over and over, but I will keep doing so.  As long as patriarchy exists, as long as it hurts people by oppressing them, I will keep doing so.  I really, really wish I didn’t have to.

As for the protest; well I think this banner said more and said it far better:

If this doesn't tell you why the government are arses, nothing will.

If this doesn’t tell you why the government are arses, nothing will.

*http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/cunt
*http://www.thefreedictionary.com/cunt
*http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cunt
*http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=cunt
*https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Cunt

**http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/7059/why-is-cnt-so-much-more-derogatory-in-the-us-than-the-uk

BIGOTRY IS NOT A MENTAL HEALTH CONDITION

Recent tragic events in Charleston in which Dylann Roof is alleged to have murdered nine people attending services at the Emanuel African Episcopalean Church (known as Mother Emanuel to its attendees and the community) has led to many stating the accused clearly suffers from a mental health condition to have acted in this violent manner.  I use alleged as the court case has yet to occur.

I say NO.  Bigotry is not a result of a mental health condition.  Bigotry results from the daily indoctrination of white privilege (or male privilege, or able-bodied privilege, or cisgender privilege, or any other form of systemic privilege).  It results from the belief that one more entitled than another based on an arbitrary social identifying factor.

Bigotry writ large on his clothing.

The accused shooter.

Dylann Roof may well have mental health issues which may well have caused him to act out the way he did, but his prejudice, clearly documented in this picture in which he is wearing the flag of apartheid South Africa (top badge) and the flag of white supremacist Rhodesia of 1968-1979 (now Zimbabwe; bottom badge), shows a racist ideology that is deeply ingrained in him.

Conflation of the ideology of racism with a mental health condition is dangerous.  Racism is a learned behaviour and the terror attack in Charleston is indicative of an endemic racism inculcated within society.

Murdered because of Racism.

Murdered because of Racism.

Remember the victims of this shooting:

  • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45)
  • Clementa Pinckney (41)
  • Cynthia Hurd (54)
  • Tywanza Sanders (26)
  • Myra Thompson (59)
  • Ethel Lance (70)
  • Daniel L. Simmons (74)
  • Susie Jackson (87)
  • DePayne Doctor (49)

Real people murdered by racism.  Nine names on an ever-growing roll call too long already.

It’s funny how the excuse of a ‘mental health condition’ arises when it is a white (usually male) person who has committed the terror act.  The same excusing and assertion of mental health issues happened when Elliot Rodgers killed six men and women and sent a further seven to hospital, despite a misogynistic 135+ page thesis clearly stating his extremist sexism and violent intentions which he posted online along with several YouTube videos.  It’s an excuse deliberately used to perpetuate privilege and deny the endemic problem.

If we don’t name a behaviour and really try to amend and change the attitudes of the privileged and the ingrained nature of prejudice within our societies, this will keep happening. If we don’t stop valuing violence and aggression as a masculine ideal then this will keep happening. To deny it and try to pin it on mental health conditions is dangerous, and frankly offensive to anyone with a mental health condition.

By saying bigots who act out in violent ways are suffering a mental health condition we are ‘othering’ this kind of behaviour, ignoring it and denying it occurs as a result of the environment in which people are raised.  Saying that Roof’s behaviour is ‘not normal’ and must therefore be a mental health problem is just another way of saying #notallmen, or #notallwhitepeople.

This attack was the result of a lifetime of endemic indoctrination of racist ideology. It was not a mental abnormality (as I have read in online comments) any more than being, say, politically left wing or having a religious faith is.  Denial denies the root causes of such ideologies and actions, and means it becomes removed from us and it is that much easier to maintain the privilege that benefit those not discriminated against.

Bigotry is inherently violent, mentally, emotionally and physically.  If we need an analogy, it would be closer to say it resembles an abusive relationship in which privilege plays the dominating role inflicting terror on the discriminated-against partner.  The threat of bigoted attack remains at all times.  It is a terrorist act.  Systemic bigotry is a terrorist act.  Time to call it what it is.

The Caitlyn Jenner Effect

Debuting Ms Caitlyn Jenner

Debuting Ms Caitlyn Jenner

No-one can have failed to notice the latest Cardassian Kardashian-related news item being splashed all over the first world media; the transition of Jessica Lange Caitlyn Jenner.  I tend to avoid all Cardassian Kardashian crap as much as possible, not being a fan of celebrity culture and the false idols thus raised up based on the crumbling pedestals of white, heteronormative, cisgender, able-bodied wealth and status.  However, Ms Jenner is taking a huge personal step and is allowing the public in to understand the process and the life of a transgender person going through transition.

As predicted, FOX News misgenders Ms Jenner all over the place, even quoting her words within the interview as having been said by ‘Bruce Jenner’ and stating Bruce Jenner is debuting Caitlyn Jenner.  No, FOX, you linguistically transphobic morons, Caitlyn Jenner is debuting Caitlyn Jenner.

Much of the press coverage has been supportive, and this in itself reflects great strides in social evolution.  It is worth noting that this only happened after a sporting hero (I do not gender the word) who was well known and conforms to all other privileged identity markers took this step.  Perhaps this makes it easier for those who would normally turn in disgust to open themselves up to.  If it changes minds, it’s a good if miniscule step.

That does not mean that violence towards transgender people, misunderstandings (to put it politely), misgendering, ‘tranny’ jokes in sitcoms etc. (how often have you seen the old trope that a tall and/or larger woman is mistaken for a man, or a man has ‘accidentally’ snogged a ‘man’, for example?  Even in wonderful sitcoms such as Miranda *sigh*), and either ignorant or deliberate transphobia is going to disappear overnight.  Last year there were significantly more violent attacks against transgender people than in the whole of 2013.  The suicide rate for transgender people, particularly the young coming to terms with their identity, is far higher than the average.

In the UK we had a transgender character on one of the biggest soap operas in the country, Coronation Street, the wonderful Hayley Cropper (still missed).  A m-t-f post-transition transgender character, who was played by a cisgender woman.  I do not know why a transgender actor was not chosen to play the part; I am guessing that gender identity was not a question asked in the audition.  I for one think that they should have asked transgender actors to apply; affirmative action is something I support.  After all, what is discrimination if not affirmative action for those already in the position of privilege?

The United States has openly transgender women in highly successful roles, people such as Janet Mock and Laverne Cox.  They remain the exception, though.  I am struggling to think of any high-profile transgender people in the United Kingdom, other than Labour party MP candidate Emily Brothers with whom I have been lucky enough to briefly meet and discuss politics, and Lauren Harries, famous for appearing as a child on various daytime shows as an antiques expert.  All women.  I cannot think of any transgender men in the spotlight; whether that be through fear of transphobic ridicule in the reaction or because there simply aren’t any due to discrimination I do not know.  It may be the patriarchal male gaze which chooses to objectify women and the transgender identity adds an extra level of prurience (and I’m grimacing in disgust at the vileness of such an action).

It will be a wonderful day when everyone who is transgender is simply accepted and supported through their transition, however much and however far they wish it to be, whether they identify as male/female/genderqueer/pangendered or agendered.

So I am hopeful that the Caitlyn Jenner effect will be to push back the boundaries limiting those who are transgender.  There is so much more to transgender identity than simply gender; only someone who is transgender can relate and really understand.  I hope that the Caitlyn Jenner effect will be for all cisgender people to sit down, shut up and listen.  Really listen.  Then understand and stop with the transphobic idiocy.  If you feel threatened by anyone who is transgender, then recognise that it is your problem and get help for it.

If only one positive comes out of the Caitlyn Jenner effect, then I hope that it is to wipe transphobia out.  I trust that you are all with me.

UK Election 2015 – Your Vote Is Vital

Your vote is your voice, use it.

You can make the difference in this election.

It is too late now if you haven’t already registered to vote, but if you have, this election is the first one where the outcome is not predictable – no-one knows who will be in government on Friday 8th May.  Your vote is vital, especially if you are one of those people who usually chooses not to.  If you are one of those people who feels disenfranchised, you are the one with the power in this election.

I have written four articles for Pilot TV News summing up this election – read and share this article.  Help others make the right choice for them. You have a lot of choice, but unfortunately not every election borough has the same choice.  That is our current state of “democracy”.  Scotland and Wales have six parties, England has five, and Northern Ireland also has six.  You can make your informed choice through the information provided in this article: http://pilottvnews.com/2015/04/who-to-vote-for-uk-general-election-voter-guide/

But you may not have the choice others have – proportional representation would sort that out but we haven’t reached that stage of elective evolution yet.  Tactical voting has been talked about a lot in the media, and it may be the right choice for you in your particular borough.  What does it mean to spoil your ballot, and how can you do that so it actually counts?  This article gives a thorough accounting of what your real options are: http://pilottvnews.com/2015/04/tactical-voting-how-to/

So many people don’t vote.  The reasons for choosing not to are many and varied, but are not heard.  Those who are discriminated against in society; women, those of BAME (Black and Ethnic Minority) identity, the disabled, and the young (18-24), are least likely to vote, but together they make up far more of the electorate than each individual realises and have the real power in this election.  We are no longer a two, or even three, party system.  Take the power you have and own it.  According to Operation Black Vote, for example, 168 marginal seats could be decided by the Black and Asian electorate in those boroughs.  You have the choice, so use it! http://pilottvnews.com/2015/05/who-votes-and-who-doesnt-vote/

I know who I am voting for, and have written about my choice in this earlier blog.  Use the tools in this blog, and through the links provided, and make an informed choice.  Whether you like it or not, those who are elected will have control over your lives for the next five years.  You may say that nothing ever changes, but take a brief look at history.  Women won the right to vote, elections created a government which ended slavery, discrimination became illegal and homosexuality became legal – political change can and does occur.

Your vote is the start of that. Not voting does not show disaffection; your motives are not known.  Apathy and silence can be taken as complicity with the status quo.  Don’t let yourself be silenced.  Make your views known, loudly and often.  Vote in this election and you will be heard.  I believe that is just the start of the political process; get active and get loud.  Be the change you want to see.

Tried and Tested – A Zombie short story

This is a short story I wrote for the SFX zombie story competition – the only rules were that it must feature Christmas lights as a prop and a zombie in a Santa suit, and be up to 1500 words in length.  I did not win or even feature as a runner up – having read the winner I can see why!  Very well written (although I think mine was more original in storyline), far more eloquent than mine.  Judge for yourself; here is my failed entry!

“Another crisis, Jamie?  Too many more of those and we will ALL lose!”
“Fuck off, Robin.  Not my fault.”
“Yeah, Robin, it’s the cards.  You shuffled!”
“Who asked you, dickwad?”
“Screw you, Mary-Jane!”
“ONE TIME I smoked… ONE TIME! Stop calling me that.”

“Now now, children,” Alex, the group’s natural leader by virtue of slapping them all one by one until they agreed, spoke up before things got ‘handy’. “And MJ, it was not once…”

An almighty crash from somewhere beneath their feet shut them up.  Looking at each other, they  stood and turned towards the hatch.  A sturdy hatch, they had thought; solid, dependable, lockable from their side only.  A dark thick wooden barrier between themselves and what lay below.

“MJ…”
“STOP CALLING ME THAT!”
“Okay, Max, you removed the clipboard from the reach of the subjects, right?”
“Yes I did, Alex! At least… I think I did.”

Robin, Jamie and Alex all looked at Max, united in sardonic eyebrow-raising and simultaneous sighs of resignation.

“It is possible I may not have done…”

“For fuck’s sake, Max!  What the …. never mind, one of us will have to go down there and get it.” Alex looked toward Robin and Jamie. “Obviously it’s not going to be ‘The Great British Baked Off’ here so who was next on the roster?  Check the list, Jamie.”

Max bristled as Jamie walked to the desk which contained Star
Wars/Star Trek figures (cause of many a lively debate), Buffy calendar and many, many DVDs featuring all manner of costumed characters.  Shifting aside piles of graphic novels Jamie located the laptop detailing their findings and the work rota. “S’me, apparently.  Wish me luck, I’m going in!”

“Here.” Robin tossed over the cricket bat each took with them when they visited the cellar. “Stay safe!”

“Well I was planning on having my brains eaten but since you ask so nicely…” Jamie picked up the filleting knife from the selection of weaponry they kept on a sterile steel tray beside the hatch.  Just in case. “If I’m not back in 10…”
“Yeah, yeah,” Robin, Alex and Max returned to the game even before Jamie had lifted the hatch. “Hey, do NOT take a turn till I get back!”
“Okay.” Robin turned over the first card and picked up the dice.

Sighing, Jamie turned towards the wooden steps which led from the warmth of the room they occupied towards a deepening blackness.  The hatch was lit by Christmas lights they had strung around the hole.  As Jamie moved below ground the lights swung, gusted by the breeze from the ventilation shafts dotted long the broad corridor.  Three rooms led off the corridor on either side; spare, small cells each containing one zombie.  Flicking a switch more Christmas lights flickered on, lighting the corridor down either side.  Once again Jamie breathed a sigh of relief that they had not opted for the type which flashed and sparkled in patterns as Max had suggested.  They were on a strict budget for this experiment and there was such a thing as too much.  Plus they would be nice to use as decoration once this was done.

“Which one did you leave the clipboard loose in?” Jamie shouted up to Max.
“Far left, furthest from the stairs.  I think.”
“Kerrist-on-a-bike!” Jamie once again felt that rising anger that Max inspired in so many people.  No other way around it, each cell would have to be checked.  Good job Max was mostly harmless otherwise one of these cells might gain a new occupant.

Jamie lowered the viewing hatch to the cell on the far left, reasoning that it would make sense to at least start with the room Max believed might have been the place the clipboard was left.  Scanning around the room through the chicken wire the group had modified each hatch with to avoid attacks on hair, clothing, noses and ears by the putrifying barely-by-now animated corpses that were their charges, it was clear that no clipboard was lying unattended in this room.

Jamie quickly scanned the clipboard hanging by the hatch to check Max had entered the relevant data from the latest visit, verifying it had been correctly and completely filled out.  Good, Alex would not be required to administer discipline.  Jamie let a small smile creep out.  Disciplining tended to embarrass all involved and occasionally the clean-up got a bit too sticky.  Some stains were impossible to get out.

The next two cells also proved the clipboards were both correctly hung and documented.  Crash!  Jamie’s heart leapt violently, beating at what felt like ten times the normal rate.  A flush moved rapidly up and down limbs shaking with nerves.  Not terror, just nerves.  That’s only natural.  Jamie shook the nerves away and stepped toward the cell from which the frightful scraping of metal and wood on wall had emanated.

A groan arose from the shifting, amorphous mass of what had once been human.  Now it resembled only a collection of rotting flesh, sliding and slipping south from limbs which could no longer retain cohesion.  Globs of phlegm-like substance dripped viscous organs down the red suit in which they had clothed the zombie.  A felt-made bright red Santa suit, ironically cheerful, identified this particular subject.  Others wore different fabrics; a leather biker’s outfit, a full rubber gimp suit, silk formal gown covering their sole female subject, and a nylon tracksuit which was highly flammable so the fire extinguisher was kept near that subject’s cell.  The final, naked, zombie provided the control test subject for their experiment: “How Material Affected The Decaying Process of the Undead”.

“Shit.  Alex, chuck me down the keys for cell 3.” Jamie yelled up through the hatch, dodging the hunk of clinking metal as they came flying downwards. “Watch my face, will ya?!”

“You have nothing to worry about, you too ugly for it to matter!” Wanker, Jamie thought, not for the first time.

Opening the cell Jamie peered around in the dim light to locate the clipboard, keeping both bat and knife to hand.  Santa stood, and shuffled towards the door, a flicker of light in his eyes suggesting a sense of sentience Jamie knew wasn’t actually there.  That’s what they had been told.  All subjects were dead.  They shuffled, bit, and groaned a lot but did not speak or think.  You could not kill what was already dead.  They had no life, no rights, no humanity.  The work the group was doing was vital in protecting the living and how zombies would contribute.

Jamie moved towards the clipboard, careful to face Santa at all times and noting the binds still held him out of reach of the door.  For a brief second Santa was out of eye-line as Jamie leaned to pick up the clipboard.  Swiftly a hand jerked Jamie’s head violently backwards.  Slobbery saliva dripped onto hair.  No, not saliva.  Cheeks.  Actual cheeks.  Jamie screamed in disgust and horror and turned quickly, raising the bat to bring it down hard on Santa’s head.

Blood flew, coating the walls.  Flesh ripped from the limbs, unrecognisable from rotten meat, covering Jamie, the tray, the bat.  Slashing with the knife, Santa’s torso took the full force of Jamie’s fear.  Hacking at Santa’s neck Jamie thanked every God there is and many there aren’t that Santa was a fiction and Christmas could still be the fun time of distant memory.  Eventually the head rolled from crunching bone and the grabbing, snatching, dripping and gore stopped.  Jamie panted with the exertion, fear and adrenaline still coursing.

Returning to the room above, Jamie reluctantly announced: “We lost a subject.”

“Crap.  Can we get another?  Will it ruin our results?  What will The Kraken say?” Max’s mind ran through all worst case scenarios.

“Thanks for your concern, Max.  I wasn’t bitten, don’t worry.  I’ll get a tetanus shot tomorrow.”  There was just no support in this group, no concern for welfare, Jamie thought, angrily buzzing with adrenaline from the fight.

“We’ll fail science now!  The Kraken will never pass us!” Robin panicked.  If they didn’t pass this none of them would graduate from school, let alone get good university places.

“Stop worrying!  We still have the control, there’s only three weeks left, it’ll be fine.”

They heard a voice calling down to them and they froze.

“Girls, dinner time. Wash your hands and get up here!” Alex’s mum.”You can finish your zombie experiment later”.

The girls rose and groaned as they shuffled towards the door.

END.

I Will Vote Green And You Should Too

Usually I am massively in favour of not explicitly stating on a public forum which political party I intend to vote for.  I’m more of a small ‘p’ policy person than a large ‘P’ Party person when it comes to politics.  As I get older/think about stuff more* (*delete as applicable) however, it occurs to me I want people to vote the same way as me so it might be a good idea to have a go at a large ‘P’. If you haven’t registered to vote, do so.  It doesn’t mean you WILL vote, but at least you will have the option.  You have until 20th April 2015 to register for this year’s general election.

I’m voting Green.  I have done for the last two general elections at least, and for local council and mayoral elections where we have a choice of more than one for whom we can vote in via single transferable vote (STV) in which we rank our preferred candidates 1, 2, 3 etc.   The votes are counted and if no-one gets 50% then the next level of votes are counted until all the posts are filled.  At least we do in my local borough.

This system is unlike the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system applied to general elections, through the use of which the United Kingdom is in a minority of modern democracies.  The political parties use the STV system for their party leadership contests, in case you were wondering.  I generally vote for the Green candidate and two other candidates I feel from their manifesto and platform would do the best job representing my local borough.

I do read manifestos and do my research, because you never know when a deal-breaker policy might suddenly appear.  I cite the Labour Party and its long-term betrayal of its left-wing, socialist roots to become a centralist, ‘diet Lib Dem’ party – they expelled their outspoken Socialist members in the 1980s and compounded the betrayal by announcing New Labour under Tony Blair in the 1990s.  I cite the Liberal Democrats for its inexorable move towards the right to become no longer the middle-ground party it wanted to be to become ‘diet Tory’.

The Conservatives (hereonin to be called Torys; despite my inclination to name them something far worse though not gender-specific) are moving more to the right and appear to be jostling with UKIP for attention, although of course UKIP are more upfront about their bigotry.  I shall continue my nicknaming and call UKIP ‘Tory Triple Caffeine’.  I’d call them ‘Tory extra strong’ but that is close to giving them a compliment and the idea is bringing me out in a rash.

Fuck you, ConDems.  Seriously.

* source of the foodbank graphic attributed to Nick Rhodes.

Labour and Tory successive governments have increased poverty, but the ConDems have done so in leaps and bounds; for example in the use of Food Banks which Tory MPs have stated (I paraphrase) are used by the feckless poor who choose to use them rather than work for a leaving, or who would rather spend their money on alcohol and cigarettes (obviously only the rich are allowed those despite consistent increases on VAT on both products which are based on their purchase rates).  The blogger Vox Political Online posted this graphic about the rise of the foodbank, and it paints a thousand words.

The main reason I find for choosing Green is that they are the only party to stand against maintaining the austerity measures the current ConDem coalition have put in place.  Measures which are impoverishing so many people, condemning the most vulnerable to misery and even death, and increasing the wealth of the very richest in the country, all whilst proclaiming “we are all in it together”.  There is so much more than that to my decision to vote Green.

That’s right.  They are the ONLY party to stand against the austerity measures in England .  Wales has Plaid Cymru also standing against the measures, and Scotland has the Scottish National Party.  Sorry, Northern Ireland.  You’ll have to check with your candidates in your local area.

I do have some other reasons too:

1.            They stand for long term planning and implementation on their policies – the only party which sees further than the next election.
2.            They have a clear environmental policy for the introduction cleaner energy practices with reduced costs and benefits for the country and the people, and the phasing out of fossil fuel energy and nuclear power.
3.            They will renationalise the NHS.
4.            They will enact the Robin Hood Tax on bankers bonuses, increase taxation on the wealthiest 1% and close tax avoidance loopholes.
5.            They will abolish the bedroom tax, cap rents and build half a million new homes for social housing, including renovating existing disrepair properties.
6.            They will scrap university tuition fees and bring Free Schools and Academies under local authority education control.  This means all children will have access to an equal opportunity education, but the schools will be mixed ability with teaching adaptable to the child.

Ultimately, the Green Party stands for a more equal society in which we all have a say and our voices WILL be heard, and this starts from the point of membership.  All members of the Party determine policy, not just the leadership as in other political parties.  The long term policies of the Green Party are on this link: http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/

Need more Party information, with more parties included?  How about a link to a handy summary of all the current policies available via a useful tool to determine which party may best represent you!

Or you could look up the parties in your area; the main ones for the UK countries are listed here with their website links.  Manifestos will be available in early to mid April:

Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (NI): http://allianceparty.org/
Conservative Party (E,S,W): https://www.conservatives.com/
Democratic Unionist Party (NI): http://www.mydup.com/
Green Party (E,W): https://www.greenparty.org.uk/
Labour Party (E,S,W): http://www.labour.org.uk/
Liberal Democrat Party (E,S,W): http://www.libdems.org.uk/
Plaid Cymru (W): http://www.plaid.cymru/
Scottish Green Party (S): http://www.scottishgreens.org.uk/
Scottish National Party (S): http://www.snp.org/
Sinn Féin (NI): http://www.sinnfein.ie/
Social Democrat & Labour Party (NI): http://www.sdlp.ie
UKIP (E,S,W): http://www.ukip.org/
Ulster Unionist Party (NI): http://www.uup.org/

Vote Green.

Simple choice, in my opinion.

The superbly informative blogger Another Angry Voice (read him, you will feel much better though angrier if you do) created a superb summary graphic as a handy crib sheet for the European Parliamentary Elections and I am reproducing here as it remains valid for the general election.

Pretty clear, isn’t it?

I will still be reading the manifestos and continuing my research right up until the election on Thursday 7th May, just in case something changes.  I doubt it will though.  That’s why I’m voting Green and I am lucky that I have the option to do so.

If you don’t have the option to vote Green I suggest voting for Labour as the next best option/best way to get Lib Dems/Conservative out and stop UKIP or other party of right-wingedness such as EDL getting in.  It could happen.  Both the BNP and EDL have been elected to local and general posts in the very recent past.  I’m agitating for social and political reformation anyway, no matter who wins.  Too much is wrong for one party to be able to put right.

This is my opinion.  Your vote is your choice.  As it will affect me and every other person in this country, I ask you to please choose wisely.

Thank you.

Saving the NHS

People before profit in healthcare, always.

People before profit in healthcare, always.

Today, 28 February 2015, I stood outside my local hospital, the University Hospital Lewisham (which is its official name, Lewisham Hospital to those of us who live here) for four hours.  The day was freezing, and it didn’t stop drizzling; the sky was murky, miserable and grey.  I also was freezing and damp, but I could not have been happier nor could my day been more full of colour.  It’s all thanks to the love and passion that it would seem to me at least 90% of the country has for the nearly 67-year old behemoth that is the National Healthcare System.

This system is under threat like never before.  Since 2012 one-third of new contracts has been awarded to private companies rather than the NHS*, even when those contracts are more expensive such as at Royal Stoke University Hospital .  GP surgeries have lost £943 million pounds in funding over the last three years*.  We are moving towards a private healthcare system that in real terms costs more.  The more the NHS is broken down into smaller, privatised parts, the less power it has to negotiate and the more expensive healthcare becomes.

Privatisation costs more.  There are 26 countries where per capita spending is higher than in the UK.  The UK spends £2billion per week* (yes, you read that correctly) but when you consider the United States spends twice that* for a far worse service and that the NHS recently topped the world for desired and successful healthcare provision, it becomes clear the only people who benefit from privatised healthcare are those invested in the companies who provide it, including MPs.  Not the patients, not the healthcare workers and not the community.

How lucky there is a general election coming up through which we can tell our prospective Members of Parliament how much we DON’T want privatised healthcare.

So I collected signatures for 38 Degrees and for the people I love.  I spent my Saturday doing what I feel compelled to do.  I was not alone; over 30 volunteers turned up and I know you will all be utterly shocked to find out I ‘administrated’ everyone so we managed to cover Catford, three areas in Lewisham, Deptford, Brockley and New Cross as well as the hospital in our zeal to collect signatures.  Apparently I’m a bit of an organiser.  Who knew?

I met with warmth, pleasure that I was doing the collecting, gratitude, from so many people.  I was also met with derision, anger, hostility and disdain.  I cannot understand this but smiled anyway, thanking them for their time and wishing them the best of health.  Only one person was so defeatist he did not see the point in trying and grew angry when I answered the question he asked of me: “Why try?” (I paraphrase, mostly to get rid of his swear words).  I do understand how he feels; I think we all probably recognise that feeling and in our current political and social situation probably more than ever, but I could not disagree with defeatism more.

We HAVE to fight.  We HAVE to shout.  We have to make sure that our voices are heard loudly and often.  We may lose, but we cannot know that unless we try.  It’s too important not to try.  I choose hope.  I choose optimism.  I choose to fight for the ideal whilst living in the reality, because that’s all we really can do; and it is a choice.  It’s a choice I have to practice every day, but it’s a choice I make because it is what I believe in.

I would be dead without the NHS, of that I have no doubt.  We have all, those of us born after 1967, been under the care of the NHS our whole lives, and those born before remember the fear and pain that the poorer members of our society lived under, unable to afford healthcare.  I have many health conditions which need either medication or long-term monitoring.  Thanks to the NHS, I can work full time and I can campaign to make society a fairer, more equal place.  The existence of the NHS is fundamental to creating a more equal society.

Signs, signs everywhere including on my petition.

Signs, signs everywhere including on my petition.

A medical complex based on profit rather than people is a pharmaceutical industry, not a healthcare system.

I am going to pay for today with pain and fatigue; I know my various medical delights will ensure that.  It was and will always be worth every single agonising second because it is the NHS that means I can be out there, being active and being activist.  Saving the NHS means saving me.

*all statistics from the 38 Degrees non-party affiliated campaigning group – site here: http://www.38degrees.org.uk/

Atheism In The Dawkins Age

My Sooterkin™ is currently doing an OU course entitled “Why is Religion Controversial?” He talks over his essays with me which is fascinating. However, I now have come to realise that I am an atheist. It’s not just through these conversations that I have come to define myself as such. This is after a long process of thought, reading the definitions and understandings of people such as Annie Besant (who later turned to spirituality and denied atheism), Terry Pratchett, the aforementioned Dawkins and many other atheists. I was a Christian in my youth; attending a wonderful Methodist church with a female vicar from the age of four until I was 16 and teaching Sunday School to 4-6 year olds from the age of 12, then joining sixth form friends at what I called a ‘happy clappy’ evangelical church until I was 18. By then though I was questioning everything, especially the gender hierarchy which seems inherent in Christian religious practice.

At both churches the people were kind, friendly, caring, witty and everything that one would picture a Christian to be. No fundamentalist extremism of any kind there. I loved the people, and stayed longer than my faith lasted because of them. My church was female-led, which I later found to be quite unusual. I realised that after thought and careful consideration I could not claim to have faith. However, I held back from identifying as an atheist, preferring ‘agnostic’ or my own invention ‘scippy’ (scientific-leaning hippy).

People such as Megan Fox – not that one

Famous for Transformers and arguing with directors, from what I know.

Famous for Transformers and arguing with directors, from what I know.

THIS one.  She makes Christianity seem ridiculous, ignorant and a faith for those who cannot have an open mind.  Watch this link to see how she audits science museums for her homeschooling.

This woman does not understand scientific processes at ALL!  Not a good advert for Christianity.

This woman does not understand scientific processes at ALL! Not a good advert for Christianity.

This is not my experience of Christians. In other faiths, the media concentrates on extreme acts of individualistic terror which again have nothing to do with the faith and everything to do with power and control. Patriarchy is fundamentally based on a reading of religion in which the male has power over the female – in Catholicism it is the tempting of Eve and her failure which leads to the fall from grace and the concept of original sin, for which women are punished with the pain of childbirth.

All this, however, is not to do with God or Gods, or faith. It is everything to do with maintaining an unequal hierarchy. Faith in a ‘creator’, an omniscient higher being whether benevolent or controlling, is an individuals relationship with that which gives their life meaning and a moral centre. Religious organisations can be supportive and caring and provide succour and aid to those of the faith and those of the community who do not have faith.

My beloved-awesome-favouritist-blogger-EVER™ Betty Fokker is currently writing about Atheism, from a US faith-based perspective.  It is she who has inspired me to write this blog. I agree with her that ‘Atheism’ is an umbrella term which simply means one does not believe in a deity or deities. There is a multitude of definitions within that term with which one can align oneself. The one which seems to get the most publicity is what I call the Dawkins Age of Atheism – non-theism/anti-theism.

Non-theism or anti-theism is not a passive personal belief based on a lack of empirical scientifically verifiable repeated test-based proof of a deity or deities, as is my atheism. This is an active denial and confrontation of anyone who identifies as a person of any faith, often accompanied by ridicule and derision. Read Dawkins “The God Delusion” to see how his use of language and terminology is clearly propagandist and insulting towards those of faith. It’s an extreme way of presenting a viewpoint which denies the agency of others to express personal faith however they see fit.

I do not recognise this anti-theism as anything other than another form of extremist oppressive pushing of one’s own thoughts onto another.

My atheism is based on the following:

  • No scientifically based proof of the existence of any form of deity. Like all scientific processes, this means I am open to the possibility should science one day prove there is a deity.
  • I do not subscribe to a human-centred view of the universe, which religion is. A deity implies the earth and heavens (or other interpretation) has created all of, well, creation for the use of humanity. I do not see how this is remotely possible, given humans have not been around for most of ‘creation’.
  • I do not trust the idea that a system of morality and caring should be imposed on a person from an external source and that it cannot exist without the structure of religious imposition. External imposition allows for suppression and oppression. We have a set of rules that are secular, but that are changeable according to the majority (or should be, but this is leading onto a whole other discussion…).
  • Religion (as opposed to faith) does not allow for such change. It is too rigid and set within structural hierarchical organisations which oppress in many different ways, including but not limited to gender, sexuality, race and economic status.  Like any other social and/or political system, really.
  • Faith is based on blind trust. I am not made that way. Others are.

I am an atheist. I am not an anti-theist. I am a non-theist based upon the fact there is no scientific evidence of the existence of a deity, but am open to the future possibility of proof that satisfies scientific criteria becoming available. I am not a fan of religious organisations, but on the whole those who express faith are people I can become extremely fond of.  They care, they work for others, they believe in the basic goodness of people. It can be an extremely positive personal support system. Atheism is not anti-people of faith, in my opinion.

I am not a Dawkins Atheist. He and those who shout loudest are the extremists of atheism, and like all extremism, they are the ones with the publicity. Does anyone else ever get exhausted by the screaming of extremist minorities deafening the kind, caring majority, or is it just me?

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